Cllr Steve Pitt, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Economic Development talks all things Seafront.
The Council is very aware of concerns about the amount of rubbish being deposited around the public bins, especially in parks and along the Seafront. Many people have contacted me, rightly concerned about this mess.
There has been a huge increase in waste in these areas and a lot of it is household rubbish being brought from people's homes.
We did ask people not to do a big clear out during Lockdown so that we could ensure we were able to maintain weekly bin collections despite reduced staff but it is clear that some of the additional waste is from this source. We would encourage people to be patient and dispose of it via their black bins where appropriate or go to the tip.
However, we also recognise that with everyone staying closer to home and the sudden increase in day visitors due to government changes in Lockdown rules, there are many thousands of additional visitors to our public spaces and that will inevitably generate more waste.
It is understandable that people get frustrated when they think the Council are slow to act when things like this happen but it is important to explain why an immediate response wasn't easy in this case.
When the government make their announcements, the Council does not get advance warning. The team who usually clean the Seafront and empty the bins are mainly seasonal agency staff. A skeleton crew do it over the winter. We would normally know when we need them and Colas would take them on ahead of the busier part of the year. However, without knowing if Lockdown rules would be eased the process of taking them on couldn't start until there was clarity. Once the announcement was made it took just under 3 weeks to get back to full strength.
As soon as it became clear that there was an increased volume of waste, additional temporary bins were ordered and have now arrived and been deployed.
We had always intended to introduce brand new bins and new recycling bins across the Seafront areas this summer but this was delayed when the Council switched to Business Critical in March and prioritised front line care services and vital work such as establishing home working, acquiring a reliable supply of PPE, supporting The Hive with the redeployment of staff and approving an emergency £100,000 to ensure food banks could be kept supplied. There was a vast amount of emergency work to do and time was short, so things like ordering new bins obviously took a back seat.
Now that people are out and about more and very likely to be staying closer to home this summer, we want our Seafront to look as amazing as it usually does, so the funding allocated for the new bins is now being used to acquire them and we hope to have them in place in the next few weeks, ahead of the summer holiday period. We hope people do use them especially to recycle plastic bottles and cans.
The summer bedding plants are also going in with some haste to make things look attractive. The rainbow opposite D-Day Story will be a tribute to NHS, health and social care staff and other key workers. The beds between D Day Story and Southsea Castle will be a tribute to mark VE Day and VJ Day 75.
Tennis courts are open and available to use, the Golf Course is getting busy too.
The RNLI lifeguards are returning but will no longer operate on the beach between Blue Reef Aquarium and the Hovercraft because it is no longer deemed safe for swimming. We urge people not to swim along this stretch.
Organised beach cleans are not currently permitted under the current Government rules, so we urge people not to leave litter and either bin it or take it home and not ruin things for others or risk it entering the water and polluting the sea.
The takeaways are all allowed to be open and some restaurants are offering a takeaway only service. We hope everyone will queue sensibly and make sure they leave room for others to pass safely.
The Seafront road closures will remain to enable everyone to be able to socially distance more easily and to encourage cycling and walking. Disabled residents and visitors can still park at the Eastney end and look out to sea.
All Seafront toilets are open as usual.
We know people have had a tough time, thankfully Portsmouth hasn't seen as large a number of cases or deaths as have tragically affected some parts of the country. We urge everyone to help it stay that way and make sure they socially distance in line with the advice and avoid the busiest times but we also want them to enjoy our beautiful Seafront and parks, which our dedicated Parks team have continued to maintain throughout the crisis.
Have a happy & safe summer.
Cllr Steve Pitt
Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Economic Development